Let's talk about sex in schools

Education | Samuel Chan 17 Sep 2019

Sex education is different in Hong Kong's schools compared to the UK's schools. In fact, in the UK, it will soon be compulsory for students to undergo sex education from an early age.

Recent reporting from The Telegraph (renowned, incidentally, for its right-wing editorial slant, as opposed to The Guardian, which is renowned for its left-wing editorial slant) explains the current situation concerning sex education.

It states that from 2020, sex education will become compulsory for school children.

It also explains that: "Under legislation passed last year, relationships education is now compulsory in all primary schools, while sex and relationships education is compulsory in secondaries."

The overall idea here is to ensure good physical and mental health in children.

It is a response to the lower age at which children now have to deal with worldly issues (whether parents like it or not) due to our internet era and its online culture.

The syllabus will include material on how to protect oneself online.

It will also cover how to be mentally prepared for social media and the psychological problems that it has been found, in recent years, to cause - everything from cyber-bullying to general low self-esteem and insecurity around body image.

This interesting news about the change in British education law comes not long after the great success and popularity of the Netflix series Sex Education.

This British comedy-drama took sex among young people as its subject matter and no doubt went some way towards reducing the social awkwardness that comes with this territory.

It left students feeling freer and more open to discuss the subject with parents and their peers.

I bring this up in this column because it is all in very marked contrast to what is currently going on in Hong Kong. Reports about the rise in unprotected sex amongst 14 to 25 year olds in Hong Kong connect it to a lack of proper education on the matter.

Now, since Hong Kong's schools are not required to teach sex education as an independent subject, this should not be a great surprise.

In addition, when you pair this lack of mandatory education at schools with the conservatism of many Hong Kong families and homes, you get a slightly worrying picture: families that don't encourage talking about sex and relationships, and schools that don't have to set the facts straight.

When I was a teenager at boarding school in Britain, at Gresham's from 1998 to 2005, we had something that was known as PSHE.

This stood for personal, social, health and economic education. It was part of the curriculum and covered health, relationships and life in general, including work and careers.

It was taught only about once a fortnight - not frequently like subjects such as maths and English. It wasn't tested by any examinations and it wasn't graded. In fact, it was relatively informal.

The sex education part was one of the most notable elements. Whilst it may have caused nervous giggles and a little awkwardness, it was important and did a good job of clarifying and demystifying.

Reflecting on it now, I would say that this was a good way of doing things and yet another element of British education that I would highly praise.

In a world of internet pornography, it's easy for young people to get misled and to develop a skewed perspective on sex and all that is related to it.

Really, it only makes good sense that schools should teach these fundamental matters of life alongside the job of imparting the more academic knowledge that is their primary focus. If we in Hong Kong can follow Britain's lead, it would be a good step towards improving understanding in our students and developing a mature and responsible attitude towards sex in our young people.

Samuel Chan is a director at Britannia StudyLink

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